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What is neighbourhood planning?

Creating a strategy for development in your local community...

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There are two main mechanisms for neighbourhood planning - Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders. Each enables a community, including both local residents and businesses, to achieve different things and so communities should consider what they want to achieve first, and then decide which mechanism will best enable them to do this.

A Neighbourhood Plan (sometimes called a Neighbourhood Development Plan) is a way of helping local communities to influence the planning of the area in which they live and work. It can be used to:

  • Develop a shared vision for your neighbourhood.
  • Choose where new homes, shops, offices and other development should be built.
  • Identify and protect important local green spaces.
  • Influence what new buildings should look like.

In areas that are dominated by business interests, so for example a trading estate, a Business Neighbourhood Plan could be developed. It will follow the same process as a normal Neighbourhood Plan but in that area two referenda will be held as businesses, as well as any residents, will have a right to vote. This is covered in more detail under Step 8.

A Neighbourhood Development Order can help to implement a shared vision by granting planning permission to certain types of development in certain locations, without the need to submit a planning application to the local planning authority. A Neighbourhood Development Order can apply to all of the Neighbourhood Plan area, or a particular site within the neighbourhood.

The process for preparing a Neighbourhood Plan and a Neighbourhood Development Order is very similar. So although this guide refers to Neighbourhood Plans, the process can also be used for Neighbourhood Development Orders. Local people can choose to prepare a plan, or an order, or both.

Both Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders offer people a powerful new opportunity to plan the future of their communities.

Who can prepare a Neighbourhood Plan?

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Read the Local Plan carefully - it's an important document

Unlike Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans are not prepared by the local planning authority. There are two types of 'qualifying body' that can prepare a Neighbourhood Plan:

  • Parish and town councils: In areas where a parish or town council exists, these are the only bodies that can prepare a Neighbourhood Plan. A Neighbourhood Plan produced by a parish or town council does not have to cover the whole area of the parish or town. A Neighbourhood Plan can cover just part of your parish or town if you prefer. Alternatively, a Neighbourhood Plan can extend across parish boundaries.
  • Neighbourhood forums: Where a parish or town council does not exist, community members, including those with business interests in the area, can come together to create a neighbourhood forum. Only one neighbourhood forum is allowed to exist for each neighbourhood to be covered by a Neighbourhood Plan. There are certain rules that will determine whether a neighbourhood forum has been correctly set up. For example, a neighbourhood forum must have at least 21 members and, even if it is based on an existing community group, it must be open to new members. You should check with your local planning authority what these rules are to make sure everything is in order.

Top tip

Neighbourhood Plans are optional. There is no legal requirement for a community to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan. The policies in the Local Plan will still apply to your neighbourhood, whether you decide to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan or not.

What is the role of the local planning authority?

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Your local planning authority's statement of community involvement may identify groups you should involve in preparing your neighbourhood plan

Your local planning authority is required to give you assistance and advice but it cannot control your Neighbourhood Plan preparation process. Nor can it produce a Neighbourhood Plan on behalf of your local community. It is the responsibility of the parish or town council, or the neighbourhood forum, to prepare the Neighbourhood Plan. It's your community's Neighbourhood Plan, although your local planning authority will have to agree and formally designate the neighbourhood area that is to be covered by your Neighbourhood Plan. The local planning authority will also have to formally approve the neighbourhood forum where relevant.

Your local planning authority can provide information and may have evidence which could help inform the preparation of your Neighbourhood Plan. They may also help with consultation processes to assist with the preparation process but it is under no obligation to do so.

Your local planning authority will also be required to check your proposed Neighbourhood Plan to ensure that it meets all the relevant legislation and regulations. It will also check that it generally conforms to the strategic elements of its own Local Plan.

Once your local planning authority is happy that your Neighbourhood Plan has been prepared correctly, it will arrange for an independent examination. If your Neighbourhood Plan passes the examination, your local planning authority will be responsible for arranging a local referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan. The costs incurred by the examination and the referendum will be paid for by your local planning authority.

If the referendum supports your Neighbourhood Plan, then your local planning authority must adopt it as part of the overall development plan (which includes the Local Plan).

Further reading

Some general principles for Neighbourhood Plans